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Note from this doctor offers dose of health care reality

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 5, 2013

A recent Oklahoman editorial about fines levied by the federal government against hospitals as a result of Medicare rules got the attention of a local podiatrist who was kind enough to write and enlighten us about life as a medical professional today. His observations are worth sharing.

“Very few in the general population understand what is really going on with government health care (Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare). And what these programs are doing to providers,” he wrote.

Our editorial cited fines handed down against hospitals based on the readmission rate of Medicare patients within 30 days of treatment. In Oklahoma, 53 of 91 hospitals were fined — due to provisions in Obamacare that are designed to reimburse hospitals for the quality of care provided instead of the number of patients treated.

The good doctor said there are two reasons why the public regularly hears stories about “how Mom and Dad can't find a doctor who takes Medicare patients.” One is reimbursement, the other is fear of penalties, audits and even criminal charges.

As to reimbursement, he said general practitioners, internists, endocrinologists and the like — he called them “real docs,” a self-deprecating jab at his own practice — can't make ends meet if they see patients and simply bill for office visits. “If one of these docs sees three patients in an hour at $59 a visit from Medicare, $177 an hour, they can't run a practice on that,” he wrote. “Paying a receptionist, an insurance clerk and a couple of nurses, it doesn't add up. So they either go to work for a hospital and get a salary, or they don't see Medicare patients. ... How does that inequity help senior citizens who need quality health care?”

The other reason many doctors are taking a pass on Medicare — fear of audits, fines, etc. — “is the real problem that has doctors' attention, much more so than poor reimbursements. So much so that more and more docs are ‘opting out' of Medicare. They see senior citizens, patients just have to pay cash. This is the future.”

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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